Happy New Year – Make 2014 a year for a “cleaner” home

Here’s An Easy New Year’s Resolution for 2014:

by Ramsay Adams, Executive Director
2014 has arrived and many of us once again face the traditional dilemma of trying to come up with a New Year’s Resolution that can really be a true life changer, and one that we can truly keep after a few days.
It’s simple: In 2014, let’s properly “clean up” our act in our homes by taking some simple steps to help reduce energy consumption and harm to the environment.
From the moment we wake until we go to sleep every day, all of us use energy and common manufactured products that negatively impact the environment.
The EPA suggests that one of the major sources of ground water contamination can be our household and business septic systems and the improper disposal of hazardous wastes found in  household products like disinfectants and even the prescribed drugs we take.
The first step would be to gather up all those common, commercial household cleansers, detergents, and disinfectants that contain unfriendly contaminants and pollutants and replace their use with environmentally friendly substances like vinegar, baking soda, and yes, some cheap 100 proof vodka too!  These products work just as well, if not better, than their toxic counterparts, and both the environment and your wallet will thank you for making the switch.
For instance, instead of unclogging a drain with a harsh, and often expensive, chemical substance, you can simply use a combination of environmentally friendly baking soda (half a cup), vinegar (one cup), and a kettleful of boiling water. Click here for instructions.
Vinegar is great to use instead of chemical based sprays and liquids to clean windows and mirrors, as a glass spot remover either in a dishwasher or by hand, in removing stains from coffee makers and teapots, and in polishing copper (by dipping pots in boiling white vinegar).  For cleaning porcelain sinks, tubs and tile, borax or baking soda can be used instead of chemical based kitchen and bathroom cleaners.  To wipe faucets and shiny metals clean, you can use cheap, 100-proof vodka (no shot glass needed).
Another important change to make is how you dispose of unused or old prescription drugs.  Some of these drugs enter our lakes, streams and rivers unaltered if they are flushed into household septic tanks-and they remain intact even though they may pass through wastewater treatment.  The NYSDEC provides a checklist of simple options to properly dispose of household pharmaceutical drugs.
Do you wash your hands in hot water every day?  Well (no pun intended), a recent study by Vanderbilt University found that washing your hands in colder water has the same hygienic benefits as hot and reduces energy costs and consumption. The study stated that if all Americans did so (Americans wash their hands eight billion times each year) it would save a whopping 6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, equivalent to using over 650 million gallons of gasoline to power our vehicles!

As American citizens we must also reflect on our energy use as a society.  America has 5% of the world’s population but uses about 25% of of the energy consumed worldwide. Think about this the next time you are about to buy something.  We should make every effort to reduce our consumption for the sake of the Catskills and our neighbors around the globe.

Here’s a list of some other simple environmentally sound steps to take in 2014 (which will also save you money!): 
  • When you need to replace your lightbulbs, use CFLs or LEDs.
  • Replace a broken appliance with an energy efficient model (look for the “energy star” label).
  • Stop using disposable bags and buy some reusable bags.
  • Buy an inexpensive reusable water bottle, and stop buying plastic disposable bottles.
  • Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot.
  • Turn off lights when you leave the room.
  • Don’t turn on lights at all for as long as you can-open your curtains and enjoy natural light.
  • Turn off your computer completely at night.
  • Pay your bills online. Not only is it greener, it’s a sanity saver.
  • Fix leaky faucets.
  • Line dry your laundry.
  • Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.
  • Unplug unused chargers and appliances.
  • Collect rainwater, and use it to water your houseplants and garden.
With a minimum of effort, this New Year’s resolution will be a life changer – benefiting  you, your home, your community and the environment.
Happy and Healthy New Year from the staff of Catskill Mountainkeeper!

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